Perhaps I'm going slightly bonkers (I always thought you were 10 pence short of a phonebox as it was. Ed). but I'm sure that this game has been on the stocks since, well, the beginning of time, or thereabouts. Certainly that tell-tale '©1984 Namco Ltd' under the title reveals that this is a conversion of a very old coin-op indeed. And sadly, it shows.
Pacman, of course, was so successful as a coin-op that it entered the language in a way that even OutRun can't hope to rival (try asking your parents which 'video games' they've heard of and you can bet your Viz T-Shirt they won't say Afterburner). It's hardly surprising that Namco tried to eke out every last variation from this winning formula, but even by the standards of most sequels, Pac-land is pretty bizarre. While the basic formula - running about, picking up cherries, avoiding the ghosties - has been retained, the gameplay could not be more different.
Pacman has been whipped out of his little grid, given some legs and dumped in Pac-land, which looks like a sort of nursery rhyme country full of pretty little houses and fluffy clouds (if you're going to be sick at the back there, Jenkins, please remember next time to bring your own bucket). Moving from left to right, Pacman whiffles through this ghastly countryside, occasionally jumping to collect mid-air cherries which appear just before he passes them. Some cherries appear only if you have jumped on something first (it could be a hydrant, it could be a cactus, or indeed anything about a sprite high). And power pills are there as well - jump and grab one, and all the ghoulies start flashing and running away from you, just as in Pacman. As in the original, you get points for the ground you cover, although here there's no maze, just a strict left-to-right track to follow.
What this all sounds like - and versions on other more colourful computers even look like - is sort of Super Mario Bros with a few teeth missing. Shorn of the complexity of that magnificent old classic, Pac-land soon degenerates into formula action - avoid this, pick up that, jump over the other - and unfortunately the gameplay is balanced so that when you do eventually get to use the powerpill, you get to chase your foes only for the briefest possible time. Even then there isn't the satisfaction to be gained when you nab the fleeing ghoulies in Pacman - you don't even get to see how many points you've got for it.
The conversion's by no means a bad job - it's as professional as most these days - but it's the game at fault here. Once again a game that probably looks amazing in the arcades (and no doubt on the ST) simply doesn't cut it when deprived of its graphical advantages on the Speccy. Pacman was, I know, one of the Ed's favest games ever (she still outscores virtually everyone she knows) I doubt Pac-land will take its place.
Dull (and very late) sequel to Pac-man which turns that brilliant original into just another chase and grab game. Good conversion of a bad game.